Between a monolith and a hard place …

The brain trust at the LA/Long Beach complex had originally decided that only trucking companies with a fleet size of “about 50″ trucks would be permitted to apply for a license under the 5-year $ 1.8 billion Clean Trucks Plan. The most recent draft of the plan has eliminated that restriction and now states that all truck companies will be eligible to apply. They need more patsies, by the looks of it.

The intended starting date of January 1, 2008 is still unchanged although votes on the plan by the ports’ governing officials will not take place until mid-September, some 60 days later than planned. Beginning on January 1st, trucks operated by port-licensed trucking companies would be allowed to operate in the port while all others will be banned. Included among the vehicles to be banned from day one will be about 3,000 pre-1989 model year trucks, thereby reducing the number of port drayage trucks from 16,000 to 13,000.

Two weeks ago the American Truckers Association released a report showing that the driver turnover rate increased during the first quarter of 2007, marking the highest turnover rate since the end of 2005. The ATA reported that driver turnover was at a 127 % rate, and was 6 percentage points higher than during the last quarter of 2006. But apparently those numbers don’t seem to bother the folks out in la-la land. They don’t seem to know or to care which way the wind is blowing, and as long as they can hatch a scheme every now and then, and “look busy”in the offing, outsiders won’t notice their ineptitude … they hope.

This rock won’t float, however. It will turn out to be too heavy for the truckers to shoulder. For starters, the amount of information the ports plan to demand, collect and verify from each applicant between now and January 1st is overwhelming. The information applicants will be required to submit includes proof of:
• A valid motor carrier license.
• A valid California business license.
• The companies’ trucks conformance with all applicable laws and regulations.
• Liability insurance of $ 300,000 to $ 5,000,000.
• Workers’ Compensation coverage for all employees.
• Employment status of all applicant’s drivers.
• A truck maintenance plan for all trucks in an applicant’s fleet.
• Enrollment of all applicant’s drivers in applicable security programs, such as TWIC.
• Radio-frequency identification transponder equipment in all trucks.

Compliance should be really simple for the disgruntled and financially-challenged truckers. Port officials have already admitted that no details of the actual mechanics of the plan have been worked out and that an outside third party needs to be called in to handle the application process. But so what? Complications could likely result in non-compliance by trucking companies and would result in higher penalty fees, right? And after all, aren’t penalties and fees what this game is all about?

[What will the driver turnover rate be for the first quarter of 2008, do you suppose? 227%, maybe?]